Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Not to Pitch

Because I write on small business topics frequently for newsstand and custom magazines, I received a pitch letter with this opener:

“I have a great new client that i am trying to get some buzz on for a piece, can you please take a look at the pitch below?”

What’s wrong with this opener?

From my perspective…

  • It uses an approach that is too casual for a first-time communication with a stranger.
  • It’s grammatically incorrect.
  • To some of us, “get a buzz on” means getting drunk so this language is distracting.
  • The “i” flags the publicist as young, which equates with inexperienced.

The opener was followed by an article idea and signed with the publicist's initials. Just. His. Initials. No name. No phone number. No nothing else.

I am older than 23, so it’s not a good idea to be this casual when communicating with me for the first time. My assumption – right or wrong – is that this publicist will be a pain in the neck to work with should I decide to interview his client because he comes across as careless. Careless publicists make my job harder, not easier.

If you want to secure publicity:

  • Focus on what the journalist will get from the encounter, not what you will get from it. Do I care that he wants to “get some good buzz” out of this? Not at all.
  • Be professional and act mature -- even if you aren't -- when contacting a journalist. Use complete sentences. Use proper capitalization and punctuation. Avoid slang.
  • Include complete contact information.
  • If you have a PR firm working for you, require them to copy you on pitches so you can identify patterns like this and stop them.

What’s the worst publicist mistake you’ve seen (or done)?

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